Typically, I like to write about IT or tech related adventures, but sometimes I'll take the time to write an article about things I find myself passionate about.
This is one of those articles.
Plastic Guitars, lots of plastic guitars.
During "COVID-19 times" I picked up quite a few Rock band and Guitar Hero guitars, common and obscure like the "Fender Precision Bass Replica" for Rock band(s) 2 and 3.
Some of these guitars were broken, inoperable because the last child or ruthless teenager beat the ever-living crap out of them while constantly missing notes.
Most of the ones I acquired were in working condition, but absolutely filthy. I'm not sure what the correlation was with plastic guitar + child = filthy mess, but it was extremely common to get a guitar with tons of what I could only describe as "gunk" and "filth" all over it. And of course, they just had to use those stickers.
I learned some methods for restoring plastic guitars, mostly isopropyl alcohol and paper towels, with the occasional goo-gone wipe-down if necessary. (Mostly for stickers, the adhesive on those really sticks with age.)
Additionally, on occasion I would take the time to disassemble guitars to learn how they work, that way I could do repairs if needed. This taught me alot about how Harmonix, Mad Catz and the various manufacturers over the years took shortcuts to make guitars cheaply, but usable.
In the end, I think I wound up with ~30+ guitars, and 4+ drumkits.
Why do you need so many?!?
Well, I like to think of it this way, each instrument has a unique playstyle because every manufacturer made their guitar differently.
For example, a Rock Band 1 guitar will play vastly different compared to a Rock Band 4 guitar. They evolved as the games came out, changing switches, button actuation types, and strum bar mechanics.
They also introduced different game mechanics, i.e. Star Power, Whammy, Slide Bars, Solo-Frets, etc.
Each of these mechanics add features to a guitar, allowing advantages, or sometimes even disadvantages to lower-skilled players.
Personally, I like to have a nice collection that includes a wide-variety of options, so that's why I own so many, I also have duplicates because I like to modify my guitars.
Here's the deal, so FACTORY Stratocasters, and Precision Bass Replicas have really crappy setups.
For Stratocasters, the strum bar sucks unless you like flicking mashed potatoes while you jam out to Welcome to the Jungle.
For Precision Bass Replicas, the frets SUCK on birch-neck, white models. However, the frets on the maple-neck, black models are on-par with RB3 Stratocaster models.
Fixing a Stratocaster is easy, there's a little mod out there called the "Strumfix 2+" that makes the strum bar feel more tactile. It's only $29.99 from a company named Byte Arts LLC.
Fixing a Precision Bass Replica, now that's a real challenge, and what I wanted to go over in this article, as it was a project I recently just finished up.
Taking a PBass from 0 to Hero
I had a spare Precision Bass Replica for Xbox 360 laying around, as the cable was FUBAR and I already had a mint-condition one in my collection. I also had a Wii RB3 Precision Bass Replica that I couldn't use because the seller didn't include a dongle.
Being adventurous as I was, I decided I would try to "Frankenstein" the two together to try to make an "Ultimate PBass" with a hardwired connection, and the fretboard of a RB3 PBass.
First, I checked the fit, because this wasn't going to work if it didn't fit. Thankfully, they literally used the same molds between reiterations.
Then came the hard part, cutting wires. Nobody wants to cut wires on their shiny hard to find plastic guitars, but you have to think of the potential reward of actually completing the task at hand.
After that, I did the meticulous task of tracing the wires on the neck and writing out diagrams so that I could draw a pretty picture later bridging the two wiring harnesses together.
Note, the wiring harnesses did NOT stay the same between guitars, and thus resulted in me having to diagram out the wiring for both necks to determine the best way to allow me to plug the neck from the RB3 PBass into the body of the 360 PBass.
After wiring that up, I also decided that I wanted to knock out replacing the cable that originally went into the Xbox 360. They use the old-school breakaway cables, and personally I think those look ugly as hell, so I did a direct-USB swap using a MicroUSB cable I ordered off Amazon.
After that, I closed 'er up, and tested it out! Plays like a champ first try! NOT.
I made a few errors, crossing the orange and the yellow frets, not sure how that happened, diagram checks out, but I guess I must have made the error during soldering. In my defense, there were like 12 wires, that gets chaotic real fast.
Closing it up AGAIN, she plays like a champ! I really love how it came out, and personally, I wouldn't mind doing this to a 360 Stratocaster if I ever get one again. I "lent" mine to my dad to play Clone Hero, and haven't seen it since.
Installing a Strumfix+ into a Stratocaster (Or DUO)
So you know how I compared a stock strum bar to mashed potatoes? I absolutely swapped the strum bar in my primary strat(s).
Here's a quick rundown:
Take it apart
Gut the old strumbar, everything must go.
Drop in the Strumfix+
Or, alternatively, drop in the Strumfix Duo.
Close er up, and rock out.
It's a really easy, and quick fix to really enhance your gameplay experience. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to seriously play a Stratocaster, unless you hate yourself and like mash-potato hands.
There's nothing more satisfying than giving your guitars a custom paintjob, it really gives it that flare and makes it feel special.
I've only done paintjobs on my GH3 Les Paul's, as they're the easiest to paint. The front faceplate pops off, and you can hang it from a wire rather easily while you paint it.
One of these days, I'll get around to doing a custom paintjob on one of my Stratocasters. It's a lot more involved since I'll have to tape off portions and completely disassemble the body to get it ready for painting.
Here's a collection of the LP faceplates I've done:
Now, what exactly are you doing with these plastic instruments in 2022? It's been over 10 years since the last Guitar Hero game came out, right?
Well, I'm glad you asked!
The Guitar Hero community came together to create a "universal engine" of sorts to play Rock Band custom tracts (C3Customs) and Guitar Hero 3 custom tracks. And they named it "Clone Hero" aptly after Guitar Hero of course.
Clone Hero plays and feels just like a mashup of both Guitar Hero and Rock Band. It has features from both, like "Energy Phrases" that boost your star power with sustains, or the feel of the menu from both.
It's 100% free, and super simple to setup, and supports (almost) any guitar, and (almost) any drumkit.
I have to have over 1000+ hours in Clone Hero, I played every day trying to get better. Going from easy to hard over the course of a few months was really thrilling. Now I can play pretty much any difficulty.
Until next time!